The Bridge's Eric Lange Goes Inside the Mind of a Killer
by Liz Raftery
After last week’s big reveal on FX’s The Bridge — in which viewers learned the killer was none other than “Kenneth Hastings” (a.k.a. David Tate), the co-worker who’s been romancing the wife of Det. Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) — one looming question remains: What is Tate’s endgame? Is he motivated merely by a personal vendetta against Marco (who was having an affair with Tate’s wife when she was killed in a car crash years prior), or is there a larger political agenda to his actions?
Both, according to Eric Lange, who plays the murderer. “The personal is political,” Lange tells TVGuide.com. “To me, it reminds me of the guy who parks his pickup truck in the middle of the freeway and gets out and puts a gun to his head and says, ‘The government’s ruining this country.’ … If you actually talk to that guy he’d say, ‘I lost my job today and my wife’s pregnant and we have no health insurance.’ He’s railing about something larger to get a sense of company in his troubles, but really his troubles are about something very specific.
“These larger-scale things have been about what we’ll come to understand David was going through, which is a feeling of injustice and a feeling of powerlessness,” Lange continues. A lot of these larger political statements are about injustice and inequality, things not being handled right, and people being forgotten and ignored, and wealth and power [winning] out.”
That feeling, as viewers discovered at the end of last week’s episode, stemmed from Tate losing his wife and son in a car crash that happened as his wife was (presumably) on her way to meet Marco. “As an actor, your first job is to not judge. You really have to be sympathetic and empathetic,” Lange says. “I think what happened to [David] is so ungodly tragic. I can’t imagine. I can’t fathom losing my wife and my son in the same night in a car accident like that, and then the way it happened and the lack of perceived justice that came from any of it.
“I think there are people that are prone to snapping,” he continues. “I think under the right circumstances, a lot of people could become what David became. … There’s something that dies in someone like that that allows those consequences not to matter anymore. And that’s what’s happened to him.”
In Lange’s view of the character, Tate’s work with the FBI — where he met and partnered with Det. Ruiz — was also a contributing factor.
“Every day those guys are seeing horrific atrocities, and murders and rapes and young girls disappearing, and there’s no atonement for it. There’s no justice for them,” Lange says. “There’s a lot of resentment and anger, and I’m sure all that’s fueled after the car crash and the loss of his family. That was a real outlet for anything like that that might have been building up in his career.”
Lange initially auditioned for the role of alcoholic journalist Daniel Frye, which eventually went to Matthew Lillard. After he was later offered the part of Kenneth Hastings/David Tate, Lange says he was sworn to secrecy about the character’s identity as the killer — even from the rest of the cast and crew.
“I was basically playing a couple different people,” Lange tellsTVGuide.com. “One was Eric Lange, who believes he’s just playing Kenneth Hastings, this guy who works with Alma (Catalina Sandino Moreno). … Every now and then, it sort of screwed me because we’d be out in the desert somewhere doing one of these weird killer things on the phone or something. And I’m in an all-black hoodie and black jeans and black boots, and a crew guy will come up to me and say, ‘So, who do you play on the show?’ And I would say, ‘Oh, I’m Kenneth. I work with Alma.’ (Laughs.) And he’d look at me like, ‘What the hell are you doing? Are you just hanging out? We’re not shooting any of that today.’ So eventually people started to [suspect].”
But now that Tate is no longer trying to hide his identity — going as far as murdering a man in a public restroom and then leaving a bloody handprint on the mirror for the police to find — what’s his next move?
“In a lot of the research I did about [serial killers], there’s a very quiet stage of planning that’s essentially the most nerve-wracking part of it. That’s where all the tension is. And once they commit the first act, there’s almost a relaxation, like, well now we’re in this. This plan is unfolding,” Lange says. “Another part of what they go through is this sort of need for attention for what they’re doing, especially if they’re proud of their acts. … Part of that is a killer’s arrogance. It’s like, try and catch me.
“He’s been ahead of them the entire game,” Lange adds. “I think he feels that the pieces are in place that he needs.”
This week’s episode finds Tate turning his attention to Marco’s family — and to say things get hairy for Alma and her children would be an understatement. But Lange for one is enjoying the dark side.
“This is the best stuff you ever get,” Lange says. “To allow the audience to think they’re watching a transformation of a guy from this to that, it’s just the best plate of food you could eat. I’m so honored and thrilled to have gotten this and to been along for the ride. It’s the best. I’m spoiled rotten now.”
The Bridge airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.